Supporting the Nation's Judicial System & the Public it Serves

May 1, 2023

Sustainable Case Management and Evidence Adjudication Support Tools for Cases Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Future Government-declared Emergencies

With the certification of 64 resource judges and four court resource attorneys’ mid-summer 2022, the National Courts and Sciences Institute (NCSI) completed Phase 1 of a SJI-supported strategic initiative to discover ways to train judges and court personnel to cope with novel, changing, Covid Science in the Courtroom. Judges from 12 jurisdictions in coordinator-facilitated teams participated in 21 science seminars and numerous jurisdiction efforts to translate the evolving science into case management and evidence adjudication bench books.

Phase 2 began immediately following certification — with the objective to disseminate to State Courts across the country insights from the participating jurisdictions’ experiences. Ten jurisdictions created products that may assist courts with Covid’s continuing challenges and with preparation for the next public health emergency that predictably could disrupt criminal justice, civil litigation and adjudication of extraordinary remedies, such as the Pandemic generated in a wide variety of public and private institutions, health care, and work settings. Following a Dissemination Workshop review comprised of 42 judges and scientists in March 2023, the following products have been scheduled for delivery to State courts, and possibly to other dissemination destinations contemplated by SJI policies:

June 2023: A complete video archive of 21 online science seminars recorded from January 2021 through November 2022, each the result of a courts and science collaboration between NCSI and the Medical University of South Carolina, and 2 additional science centers. The seminar series emphasizes causation-in-fact and methods for judging the strength of evidence emanating from overlapping waves of applicable, contentious research. Expert witness qualification is considered throughout.

July 2023: Bench books and related adjudication assisting products created by this strategic initiative’s jurisdiction teams, including discussion of challenges jurisdictions confronted as their work proceeded.

August 2023: A report on Covid-related case filings found during this project, with suggestions for statistical features / assistance to promote justice access and fairness in the wake of pandemic created constitutional challenges, criminal case management controversies, civil litigation demands for compensation and equitable relief for irreparable harms arguably following from the imposition and retraction of governmental emergency orders.

October 2023: A handbook-styled report on the project’s evaluated strengths, weaknesses and recommended improvements, with take-aways for jurisdictions that may wish to consider replication of the procedures utilized in this SJI Strategic Initiative. The report will include a list of resource judges and attorneys available to explain this project and able to recommend general strategies to assist courts adjudicate cases featuring novel, rapidly-changing scientific evidence.

Pictured here are 42 judges and scientists in attendance March 2023 at the UNC Friday Conference Center for Continuing Education.